While Santa Barbara County and state public health departments shortened COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidelines to five days with a negative test in the beginning of the new year, transitional kindergarten through 12th grade school settings have some different protocols, depending on vaccination status and where students were exposed to the virus.
The Public Health Department’s general guidelines allow isolation to end five days after testing positive for COVID-19 if an antigen test taken on or after day five is negative. If an antigen test continues to show positive results or if one is unable to get tested, isolation can end after 10 days.
The general guidance also recommends at least five days of quarantine, followed by an antigen test, for unvaccinated individuals — or those who are vaccinated but have not received a booster shot, if eligible — that are exposed to the virus.
Fully vaccinated individuals who have received a booster dose — or who are not yet eligible for the booster — are not required to quarantine, but a COVID-19 test is recommended five days after exposure.
“The guidance currently only partially applies to TK-12 school settings,” Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido wrote in a letter on the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s website. “For TK-12 students, only the isolation guidance applies at this time.”
According to the education office, students with a confirmed case of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, should isolate and can return to school as early as day six with a negative COVID-19 test if symptoms are improving and they have been fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medicine.
If students cannot test, they can return to school on day 11 if symptoms are improving and they are fever-free for 24 hours.
Fully vaccinated students who have been exposed to COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they do not have any symptoms, but it is recommended that they test for COVID-19 five to seven days following exposure.
For unvaccinated students, quarantine requirements vary depending on if they were exposed to the virus inside or outside of school.
Those who were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 inside of school can undergo standard quarantine and return on day 11, or they can do a modified quarantine at school — during which they would be excluded from sports and extracurricular activities and undergo tests twice weekly. This modified quarantine can end on day eight with a negative test and if they are symptom-free.
Another option for those students would be a shortened quarantine at home, with which they can return to school on day eight with a negative test result and no symptoms.
Under the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s guidelines, if an unvaccinated student is exposed to the virus outside of school, they have the same options as if they were exposed at school except for the modified quarantine at school.
In any of these situations, the student must wear a mask, self-monitor for symptoms and avoid crowds for 14 days.
School employees who test positive for COVID-19 are required to undergo the same isolation protocol as students who test positive.
The quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated employees are also the same as for students; however, teachers are required to receive a vaccine booster dose when eligible to be considered fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated employees who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus are required to quarantine for 10 days but can return to work on day six if they test negative on or after day five and are symptom-free. They are also required to wear a mask for 10 days, especially indoors.
If employees develop any COVID-19 symptoms during quarantine, they must be excluded pending test results.
For this purpose, close contact or exposure is defined as being within 6 feet of someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period.